Monday, July 14, 2008


Let's start with the title. I was going to call this energy crisis, but then I decided to take it pedantic and introduce some SAT vocabulary. The other day someone even used this word, but I can't remember where. I think the proper pronunciation comes out sounding like "on-we". It sums up my feelings lately about chess. Listlessness, like the River Lethe overflowed its banks and filled up my house, including this small pocket of the universe that encloses my brain. I suppose this will go down as yet another conceit that I'm essentially writing about writer's block.

While watching such revered personae as Blue Devil Knight and Temposchlucker make their untimely exits, I watched only half forlornly, as these forefathers I never knew left without really imprinting upon me the dearthy future I would now face in their absence. I only knew that there were chess muses inside me that strained against my typing fingers for an expression. But it's time for me to face it. There was little here that hadn't seen the sun before. See, I just did it again with my penchant to cite and plagiarize without a personality of my own. I'm like Shang Tsung, the absorber of souls, ultimately without my own voice. And now the internal voices are suddenly hushed as if their owners were silently appraising a new predator in the jungle. Seeing other people's freeway accidents is a kind of visceral vicarious thrill until it's your own crumpled wreck that you're gazing dazedly out of.

It's rather ironic that I have been afflicted so. Apologies to those who I've left hanging with my nonresponsivenes. This goes especially for J.C. Hallman, whose work I panned in my last post, some forty-odd days and nights ago. I guess I came with some preconceived notions about how a book entitled The Chess Artist should go and cried false advertising when my expectations missed the mark. It's true that my feelings about the book were of disappointment. But the author seems to hint that he intended for us to feel the disillusionment that a chess player feels when he realizes that his performance will inevitably betray his lofty dreams. I am reminded of the moment in Ratatouille when Anton Ego reviews the restaurant run by the rat chef and realizes he's been wrong about the world for much of his life. And now I'm living proof of Mr. Hallman's thesis. Well played, sir.

When I was in grad school, my friends got to talking among themselves. There was one guy who I always thought was a blowhard. The question came up whether I would ever get tired of chess. Well, the said emphatically that no I would never get tired of chess, as if he had peered into my soul and seen the hole that would ever remain chess dependent. I guess I resented being so predictable, but I continued feeding the monster nevertheless. Then in 1998, for a four and a half year period, I proved him wrong, but at the end of 2002, I fell off the wagon.

I have been strong in my chess enthusiasm for about five years now with a few sine waves along the way, but this feels like a flatline that may last a bit longer. It took the leap toward chess lessons for me to see it more clearly: how much I suck at this game and how faulty my memory seems to get with the passage of years. Opening lines and problem concepts fade so fast on this dull tablet, as if written in distilled water on the cement driveway under a blazing sun. And me and my TD hat always had a tense relationship. I hope my hankering for chess playing returns, but I doubt I'll ever miss chess TDing.

I met ChargingKing yesterday. I had thought about his ideals of the Cobra Kai dojo with respect to chess and found my own cyberphilic paragon. A usual, my homages went haywire and I went for a conglomerate of major screenplay themes. The ruthless efficiency of machines relative to we frail and imperfect humans seems to get lots of traction in cinema. With regard to this particular post, their tirelessness is the antithesis. The arc I'm thinking of begins with HAL9000, continues with Cyberdyne Systems T-850, and on through Data and Six. At least in science FICTION, a machine's logic is impeccable, its memory banks perfect, and its battery life unflagging.

HAL 9000: I'm sorry Frank, I think you missed it. Queen to bishop three, bishop takes queen, knight takes bishop, mate.

Kyle Reese: Listen. And understand. That terminator is out there. It can't be bargained with. It can't be reasoned with. It doesn't feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead.

Data: I am an android, I do not require rest.

Six: All of this has happened before, and all of it will happen again. (Another way to say "There is nothing new under the sun.")

Speaking of new, I recently read Neuromancer by William Gibson. Wow, I am in awe of this man's writing ability and clairvoyance. While there's perhaps only one chess sentence in the whole thing, I wholeheartedly recommend it. It was an education in one of the seminal works of cyberpunk, which I recently learned is the combination of high tech and low life. As far as I'm concerned, the Wachowski brothers owe Gibson some royalties for The Matrix. Someone told me that Neuromancer was the birth of the word "cyberspace" in 1984. If the father of the internet is ever up for a popular vote, I nominate Gibson.

When ChargingKing asked of my preparations for the Western States, my enthusiasm buzzed slightly above baseline noise. It's still a possibility I'll get back into the game, but the drought seems to have a momentum that I am unwilling to check. Chess Karma once remarked that chess might be a little narrow to spend an eternity on. Like Phil Connors, I'm going to try a few new things, perhaps even piano lessons. Caissa is going to have to content herself with forgotten concubine for a while. I should be back; I just can't say when.

I'm going to close with two more quotes.

Alfred Lanning: When does a difference engine become the search for truth? When does a personality simulation become the bitter mote of a soul?

Terminator: Hasta la vista, baby.


Eric Shoemaker said...

Hi Ernie, I'm familiar with the word. It's "An-we." The "A" is like the German "A" (Ah) whereas the "O" is a little off. However, that's splitting hairs a bit, and I don't think anyone will call you on it if you pronounce it that way.

The lips are more rounded on the "O", which makes it a slight error.

One also has to take into account regional differences in English. In some places, "On" is like "An." (The German A=Ah) And in the Midwest (Where I am from), "On" is like "Awn."

In the Midwest, most notable is the word "Wash" spoken like "Warsh", but in other places it is like the German "A."

At any rate, it's a French word and certain English dialects might have trouble with it.


Eric Shoemaker said...

Hi Ernie, one other thing, two of my dictionaries (Yes, English once again borrowed a word from somewhere else around the globe!) have the "on-we" designation, but the "O" has a curvature mark over it, which makes the sound somewhat similar to the word "Pot", which in turn would make both the "O" as you have it and the German A correct.

In other words, no need to split hairs here. How the French got such a sound out of the "E" is rather interesting though...

Wahrheit said...

Eric, you're like a universal cure for "an-we" all by yourself.


Eric Shoemaker said...

Hi Robert, yeah well...One couldn't tell by the game I played last week! It would have been more prudent to not have posted it at my site, thereby saving some measure of embarrassment.

Wahrheit said...

Well, it was a win, so there's a fairly small measure of embarrassment there. By the way, I'll link to your new blog shortly when I do a sidebar update.

Just remember, Obama was embarrassed that we can't say anything but "Merci beaucoup" when in France, but you are a credit to the U.S.A.! I'd wager he himself has no idea 'How the French got such a sound out of the "E"' in any case.

chessloser said...

i'm a bear of simple brain and i'm easily confused. does this mean you are merely taking a break or are you ending the chess/chess blogging? i am often in a state of ennui, and i don't even have the high rating you do to make me feel like i've accomplished something.

neuromancer kicks ass, as does idoru and count zero. if you've not read snow crash by stephenson (i think you have though, not sure) you need to.

if you do stop, i will surely miss your citing and plagiarizing, which DID have a personality of it's own, and your and allusions to cool stuff.

Polly said...

I'm with CL. What in earth are you telling us? Is it over?

Soapstone said...

Eric and Warheit - Pardon my French :).

CL and Polly - I guess I was rather desultory in trying to tie up a few loose ends. But isn't the path around the bush quite well beaten?

I'm taking a break from chess and chess blogging. If the Fates allow, I may be back by mid-October. The way I feel right now, I would put the even money around New Year's 2009.

Wahrheit said...

I give 100 days on the over/under. :)

Just glad to hear it's (probably) not permanent!

Are you going to do the bulletin for the Western States this year?

Eric Shoemaker said...

Hi Ernie, I certainly understand how you feel. I took time off myself (10 days) and will do so again in August as I will be in Taiwan, China and Macau for most of the latter part of that month.

But I caution against allowing too much rust to enter onto one's game.

I would make some radical changes to alleviate the boredom, if boredom is part of what you are feeling.

For instance, I'm adopting the Colle System against 1...Nf6. For years I have trashed-talk that system to death, but I am so bored with Indian Defenses, something has to be done or switch to 1. e4 period.

The Middlegame and Endgame never bore me, but Openings sometimes do.

I think more than anything, you need a change, big change, surprising change! That kind of change. However, not pocket change. :)

As far as a fading memory is concerned, I recommend the Classical Game. Meet 1. d4 with 1...d5 and meet 1. e4 with 1...e5. New moves are slower in coming so you don't have to be contantly up on theory and the Classical Game is solid as a rock.

However, you do pay for that solidity by having your draw ratio go up and your win ratio go down, but your opponent's win ration also goes down.

There's always some give and take in chess. You can't have it all ways.

And you won't be too bored, there are some cool but risky sub-variations in the Classical Game. If you look at my games since coming back (the Crystal Skull Swiss and the Dark Knight Swiss), you'll see that I have been anything but exciting!

It's all fundamentals and perhaps boring chess to some. I have finally come to grips with who I am over the board--I am a boring chess player who relies on theory and technique and I prefer the Endgame. My openings, for the most part are dull and uninspiring. For me, that is okay.

I'm 6-0 since coming back and stronger opposition would not have made any difference as the Club is not that strong and Experts don't scare me as I have beaten my share of them.

You need more "GRAY" in your game! Embrace the boredom, use the force, Luke!

Soapstone said...

Wahrheit - Yes, I plan to still do tournament rating reports and the games bulletin for Western States.

Eric - As Wahrheit might warn you, it might not be good to advertise on the internet when your home might be unoccupied, but of course you'll have a housesitter.

No it's not boredom, just the lack of enthusiasm side of ennui. I haven't looked at a board for nearly three weeks.

Come, rust, enclose me in thy ruinous embrace. Silence these incessant ply-crunching gears so that I may hear the music of the other dryads.

Eric Shoemaker said...

Hi Ernie, yes I have multiple house-sitters including one relative with gun (9mm Glock). I should be okay and there's nothing to steal anyway.


chess addict said...

HI, Would you mind if we exchange links in our chess blogs? I will your link in my blog and also my link in your blog. Just take a visit in my chess blog and inform me if its okay for you. Thank you so much.


Borislav Kaguvkov